Sanskrit, Part 3


Jan 16, CANADA (SUN) — A three-part summary of the history and application of the Sanskrit language.

British Period (1757-1947)

During the British Period, a revival in Sanskrit studies took place, accompanied by a renaissance in education, society and culture not only in Bengal, but across the whole of India. Though only a few fundamental works were written, the reading, teaching and translation of Sanskrit works were evident throughout the period.

Navadvipa was well-known in history for the study of Navyanyaya. In addition, Bhatpada or Bhattapalli, Guptipara, Burdwan, Triveni, Bali of Howrah, Vishnupur of Bankura in West Bengal and Vikrampur, Kotalipara, Chittagong, and Sylhet in East Bengal were famous for the study of Sanskrit. A centre for the study of Sanskrit was traditionally known as tol. From various Government reports it can be ascertained that there were many tols in Bangla and sufficient students studied in them.

Bengalis made major contributions to the study of Navyasmrti. During this period many scholars contributed significantly to smrti. Jagannath Tarkapanchanan (1694-1807), son of Rudra Tarkavagisha, an inhabitant of Triveni compiled a large book of smrti, entitled Vivadabhangarnava. Sir William Jones (1746-1794) inspired him to write this book. In 1796 Colebroke (1765-1837) translated some parts of this book into English, and this became known as Colebroke's Digest. This book was very much useful in solving disputes involving Hindu Law all over India.

Vivadarnavasetu is also a famous collection of smrti pieces. Vaneshvara Vidyalangkara (c 1700-1788) compiled this work with the help of ten more Bengali pundits at the request of Waren Hastings. This book proved to be very useful in solving the disputes according to Hindu Law. It was first translated into Persian. Then Halhed (1751-1830) translated it into English from Persian (A Code of Gentoo Law, London, 1776). In addition, Vaneshvara also wrote Chitrachampu, Rahasyamrta, three Khandakavyas and a play entitled Chandrabhiseka.

Kasichandra Vidyaratna (1854-1917) was a famous scholar of Navyasmrti. He was born in a Brahmin family at Vikrampur, near Dhaka. Uddharachandrika is his most important book. The subject of the book is about the re-entry of a Hindu into society, who has travelled to a western country on ships. He wrote the commentary of twenty Dharmashastras, including Manusanghita.

Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrakanta Tarkalankar (1836-1910) of Sherpur (greater Mymensingh) wrote some major books on Navyasmrti. His Udvahachandraloka is well known among scholars of Bengal. Two other books by him are Shuddhichandraloka and Aurdhvadehikachandraloka. In addition to smrti he also wrote books on grammar and literature. The name of his grammar book is Katantrachhandahprakriya.

Beginning in the last part of the nineteenth century and continuing to the second part of twentieth century, Haridas Siddhantavagish (1876-1961) contributed significantly to the study of Sanskrit. He was born at Unashiya, a village of Kotalipara in Gopalganj district. Haridas wrote Smrtichintamani. Navyasmrti includes a Bangla translation containing directions for following all kinds of rules and regulations of the Hindus governing conduct from birth to death. Besides smrti he had masterd kavya and grammar. He had also translated many Sanskrit books and provided them with his own commentaries.

In the study of Navyanyaya and Navyasmrti some other notable works are Krsnakanta Vidayavagisha (1800 AD), Golokanath Nyayaratna (1806-1855), Harinath Tarkasiddhanta (1829-1889), Mahamahopadhyaya Krsnanath Nyayapanchanan (1833-1911), Mahamahopadhyaya Kamakhyanath Tarkavagisha (1843-1936), the famous Naiyayika of Navadvip, Kamalakrsna Smrtitirtha of Battapalli etc. Nyayaratnavali, Nyayapatri, Nyayaratnaprakashika, Tarkamrtatarangini of Krsnakanta; Nyayaprakasha, Vedantaparibhasatika, Arthasanggraha, Tattvakaumudi of Krsnanath; Sangkhyadipani, Nyayatattvavodhini, Nyayasaptapadarthi, Nyayakusumanjalitika of Kamakhyanath; Danakriyakaumudi, Krtyaratnakara, Rajadharmakaustubha (edited by Kamalakrsna) have had a remarkable influence on the study of Nyaya and Smrti.

During colonial rule, many native kings and zamindars made significant contributions to the study of Sanskrit. Among them were Krishnachandra Roy, the king of Nadia; Kirtichand and Tilakchand, the kings of Burdwan; Ramakanta and Bhavani, the king and queen of Natore respectively; Gopal Singh, the Malla king of Vishnupur; Rajavallabh Sen of Rajanagar, Dhaka etc. Krishnachandra Roy donated money for the study of Sanskrit in different parts of Bengal.

The accounts of Sanskrit study in tols, chatuspathis and colleges of Bengal are recorded in various Government reports of that time. Among these, William Adam's Report (1835-1838) and Reverend James Long's Report (1868) are worth mentioning. A clear picture of the study of Sanskrit in Bengal can be deduced from these reports.

The study of Sanskrit by Europeans during the Company and British rule in India

Foreigners felt that to run business and administration, knowledge about native language and literature was very essential. For this reason and to satisfy the eagerness of many about Oriental language and literature, a new era started in the field of Sanskrit studies. In this area the contribution made by some European administrators, scholars and linguists is very significant. Among them are Sir William Jones, Sir Charles Wilkins (1749/50-1836), Henry Thomas Colebrooke, Horace Hayman Wilson (1786-1860) and James Princep (1799-1840). Through research, translation, collection and editing of manuscripts, and archaeological surveys they performed an important role in preaching and spreading Sanskrit and introducing Sanskrit to the world.

William Jones came to Kolkata as a judge of Supreme Court in 1783. Expert in many languages, Jones noted for the first time that the Sanskrit language had a unique relation with Greek and Latin and that all these languages originated from one language. Under his leadership in 1784, the Asiatic society was established in Kolkata for research on Oriental language, history and culture. Through Asiatic Researches, the journal of this institution, he attracted the attention of the western world to the education, culture, history, philosophy, etc. of India. In 1789 he published Abhijnanashakuntalam, a Sanskrit drama by Kalidasa, from Kolkata, titling it Fatal Ring.

Colebrooke came to India as a writer of the Bengal service in 1783. In 1786, at the time of his employment as a collector at Trihut, he was attracted to the study of Hindu religion and culture and begun to learn Sanskrit. After Jones, Colebrooke's contribution to Sanskrit study must be mentioned. He read Vedic and Puranic literature and Sanskrit grammar carefully. He wrote Grammar of the Sanskrit Language and compiled the Sanskrit Dictionary. By reading his book, The Translation of Two Treaties on the Hindu Law of Inheritance, foreigners were able to get a clear idea about Hindu Law. He played an important role in the institutional study of Sanskrit and its spread as President of the Asiatic society and as Professor of Hindu Law and Sanskrit at Fort William College.

In the spread of Sanskrit studies, the name of Wilkins is significant for a number of reasons. He came to India in 1770 as a writer of East India Company. He earned proficiency in Persian, Bangla and Sanskrit and became an expert in making types of these languages. He established a printing press at Hughli and made Bangla and Sanskrit types. So he is called the founding father of printing in Bengal. He translated the Sanskrit Hitopadesha into Bangla and deciphered some copper and stone inscriptions composed in Sanskrit. In 1785 the Bhagavadgita translated by him was printed in England. He published many valuable essays in Asiatic Researches. Among them are: A Grammar of the Sanskrit Language, Radicals of the Sanskrit Language, Compilation of Jones Manuscripts etc. He also translated some portions of Manusanghita.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, a long line of scholars have kept the Sanskrit language alive, inspiring students and teachers alike in their continual efforts to understand, utilize and master Sanskrit.

Many manuscripts written in Sanskrit on various subjects are preserved in different institutional and personal libraries of the country including Dhaka University Library. In the 1920's and 30's of the last century, Sushil Kumar De, Radhagovinda Basak (1885-1982) and Rajendra Chandra Hazra edited some manuscripts, e.g., Kichakavadha (1929), Padyavali (1934), Krsnakarnamrta (1938) and Ghatakarparakavya. After a long time in the 90's, teachers and researchers have resumed work on a few manuscripts, e.g. Apadeshashataka (1993), Kautukaratnakara (1998), Apadeshiyashatashlokamalika (1998), Kirtishataka etc. The first two of these have been published in the book form with Bangla translations and the third one has been published as an article. At present some researchers are continuing to research on Sanskrit manuscripts in the regions.

A project for collecting and developing manuscripts was conducted from 1984-1988 under the supervision of Dhaka University Library. Then thousands of manuscripts were collected from different collections of the country and their microfilms, accompanied by short descriptions, were preserved in the library. In addition, thousands of manuscripts from the library's own collection have also been identified briefly. All these manuscripts have been compiled in three volumes.


Dinesh Chandra Sen, Vangabhasa O Sahitya (before British influence), 4th ed, Kolkata, 1921; Suresh Chandra Bandyopadhyay, Sangskrta Sahitye Banalir Dan, Kolkata, 1962; Dhyanesh Narayan Chakravarty, Bharatiya Sangskrtir Uttaradhikar, Kolkata, 1986; Yoganath Mukhopadhyay, Itihas Abhidhan (Bharat), Kolkata, 3rd ed, 1990; Sirajul Islam ed, Bangladesher Itihas (1704-1971), 3rd Vol, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, 1st pub, 1993.

Source: Compiled by Narayan Chandra Biswas for Banglapedia

Source: Compiled by Narayan Chandra Biswas for Banglapedia


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